Seven candidates for office took part in the first candidates forum on August 30 thanks to the League of Women Voters and the Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at Burgess Auditorium and was well attended with many residents wanting to get an idea of who’s running for office in the next election. Three Mayoral candidates were in attendance: Shirley Nakawatase and current Councilmembers Paloma Aguirre and Jack Fisher. Mitch McKay and Anna Webb are running for District 3 while Jen Crumley and Carol Moss Seabury are running for District 1. Another Mayoral candidate, Vance Locke, did not attend the forum.
The event started with candidates introducing themselves. Anna Webb explained she is a small business owner and a resident of IB for the past nine years. She worked on the Mayor’s Taskforce during COVID to help businesses, and has served on the board of the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center. She believes that Imperial Beach needs to stay safe and secure and remain the safest beach city that it currently is.
McKay moved with his family to Nestor as a child in 1964. His Navy father was stationed at REAM Field. He attended local schools including Mar Vista High School and over the years has been involved with IB Little League, Paint IB Kiwanis Movement, the City’s Design Review Board and is one of the founders of a 501 (c) 3 which interfaces with the Environmental Protection Agency and International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). He is also on the Board of the IBWC Citizen’s Forum and is working for a comprehensive plan for water reclamation.
Moss Seabury is a native resident. Her dad was in the Navy and she grew up attending local schools and riding horses. Her late husband was a Navy SEAL and she has been a volunteer with the Sheriff’s Department Senior Patrol for a number of years. She supports law enforcement and those in public service, believes in managed growth, and wants to help businesses thrive.
Aguirre came to the U.S. in 2001 and for the last 17 years she has worked to fix the sewage issue. She holds a master’s degree in marine bio-diversity and conservation and has worked in Washington D.C. for U.S. Senator Cory Booker. She currently serves on the Board of San Diego Association of Governments and Board of Metropolitan Transit System. She worked on the Mayor’s Taskforce during COVID and helped feed over 1,000 families.
Nakawatase was raised in IB after her family moved from Japan when she was a little girl. She has served Imperial Beach in many ways through the Girls Scouts, Boys & Girls Club, Kiwanis Club, San Diego Regional Center and Sun and Sea Festival. She would like to focus on the safety of children walking to and from school, explore ways to generate more revenue, and traffic and parking issues. She is a certified public accountant.
Fisher said he wants to offer unbiased leadership and represent each and every one of the residents. He also would like to achieve results through advocacy and diplomacy, putting children first, focusing on programs for Parks and Recreation, and improve the Palm Avenue corridor.
Crumley has lived in San Diego since 1989 and is the owner of Cow-A-Bunga. She is the CEO and regional sales director for a cyber security company and is a member of the Cal State San Marcos College Advisory Board. She would like to see Parks and Recreation programs grow and safer streets.
Candidates were asked to answer the same questions that ranged from issues of homelessness in the community to traffic, public safety and managed retreat. On the issue of homelessness all the candidates agreed more has to be done and possibly partner with bigger organizations with more resources. McKay highlighted that recently the City has hired a resource person that does homeless outreach. Aguirre pointed out that the idea of outreach was one of her initiatives when she was first elected. Thanks to that program two individuals have recently been placed in permanent housing. “We have one of the lowest numbers [of homeless individuals],” she said.
On the question of managed retreat Aguirre said, “There has been a lot of confusion and conspiracy theories [on this issue]. Climate change is real and we have to plan accordingly to protect stormwater infrastructure,” she said. Aguirre also said the City has partnered with UCSD to do studies on salt water intrusion which degrades pipelines. Fisher agreed that the City has to listen to the experts for “a solution driven by knowledge and information, not fear.” After some answers by fellow candidates Webb pointed out, “Let’s not confuse managed retreat with imminent domain.” Crumley agreed that IB needs to adapt to climate change. Moss Beasley said she believes locals know the area better than anyone, especially compared to experts that do their studies from a desk.
A question including parking, traffic and street safety in light of growth, seemed too complex to answer in one minute as required. Candidates instead focused on one issue. Webb suggested adding another traffic officer to ensure drivers are complying with the rules of the road. Aguirre said she has spoken to many parents who worry about their children walking to school. She suggested reducing speed limits, having more community service officers and more crosswalks. Nakawatase focused instead on parking. She reminded the audience that the Port of San Diego had promised Imperial Beach a parking structure at Elkwood and Seacoast Drive 20 years ago. She also suggested creating a group of parent volunteers to act as safety patrol to watch for children.
After a question on reallocating police funds to other services in light of the George Floyd incident, candidates agreed the Sheriff’s Department is doing a good job and deputies have undergone training. “Our Sheriff’s Department provides incredible services and resources for us,” said Nakawatase. Aguirre suggested more round the clock supervision at the state park and the pier. McKay likes the idea of having someone with psychological training added to the budget.
On the question of how to ensure residents have a voice in issues that impact them, candidates provided many ideas. “Have an open meeting day, come and talk to their district officials, mayor, city manager, have issues addressed person to person,” said Nakawatase. Moss Beasely suggested to make note especially of older people while campaigning and bring an interpreter if necessary to hear what their concerns are. McKay suggested to ask the City to set aside an office so that councilmembers can have standing business hours. Aguirre would like to see more people be familiar with city hall. She said some residents, because of language barriers, have never been part of the process and simultaneous translation of the council meetings would help those who don’t understand. Also working with local schools so that students can visit city hall was another idea.
Overall, the feeling of this forum was that all candidates want to hear from their prospective constituents and their intention is to continue to maintain the community feel of the city.
Vol. 38, No. 36 - Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022